What Is a Pasteles Machine?

A pasteles maker is a grating machine to aid in the efficient production of pasteles, a Puerto Rican holiday dish similar to Latin American tamales. Looking much like a simplified version of a food processor, this electric machine eliminates the need to hand-grate the ingredients to produce the soft, dough-like masa that forms the outside of each pastele. The slower rotation of the pasteles maker enables the creation of a soft non-watery batter of perfect consistency.

Whether made using a hand grater, or with the assistance of a pasteles maker, pasteles are an essential dish for the holiday season to many Puerto Rican families. They are often served with roast pork, rice with pigeon peas and sweet fried plantains.

The masa, which forms the outside cake-like portion of each pastele, is created from a soft dough of finely grated plantains, green bananas, yucca, pumpkin, potato and yautia, a root similar to the taro root. This mixture is allowed to sit overnight to meld the flavors before creating the individual pasteles. Filling for pasteles is a mixture of meat or shellfish, raisins, olives, spices, capers, and garbanzo beans. Once filled, each pastele is wrapped in a banana or plantain leaf and boiled.

There is some disagreement over the origin of pasteles. While some say that they originated with the Taino Indians who lived on the island of Puerto Rico in the 15th century, there are others who speculate that it was African slaves who first made pasteles on Puerto Rico's sugar plantations. Whatever the origins, the ingredients for pasteles reflect Puerto Rico's rich history of culinary traditions: tuber vegetables from native Indians, bananas from Africa, olives and capers from the Mediterranean, and a late comer, American ketchup, that many Puerto Ricans now add to their pasteles.